CHICO, Calif. - The University of California San Diego gave up eight runs in the second and third innings and could not make them up, dropping to rival Chico State, 9-2, to open a California Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA) baseball series Saturday night at Nettleton Stadium.
The four-game set was supposed to begin in primetime on Friday night, but its entirety was shifted back a full day due to heavy rains in the area all day Friday.
With the result, UC San Diego fell to 19-11 overall and 15-10 in the CCAA. Chico State improved to 19-14 overall and 15-12 in league play with a third straight win. The Tritons are the reigning NCAA Division II West Region champions, while the Wildcats are defending CCAA regular-season and tournament champs.
UC San Diego remained in a two-way tie for second in the CCAA standings, as Cal State LA (18-12, 15-10 CCAA) and Cal Poly Pomona (17-14, 14-11 CCAA) both also lost on the road on Saturday. The Tritons are now a full three games back, however, of league leader Cal State Monterey Bay (24-7, 18-7 CCAA), a 9-6 home winner over Cal State Dominguez Hills.
Freshman shortstop Shay Whitcomb's opposite-field double into the gap in right center led off the game, but a called third strike, popout and flyout stranded him there.
Chico State used three singles and two walks to put three runs on the board in the second. After a leadoff hit and pair of one-out walks to load the bases around an RBI single, Preston Mott got a flyout to shallow center with the runner at third not able to score. However, Kyle Blakeman blooped a two-out, two-run single to right.
The Wildcats went right back to work in the third and batted around. They put men at the corners with no outs on two singles and a wild pitch. A Turner Olson sacrifice fly made it 4-0. Two more singles around a flyout added another run to the tally. Then came the big blow, as No. 9 hitter Dustin Miller's second home run of the season, over the right field wall, increased the bulge to 8-0.
UC San Diego cut into the deficit a bit in the fifth, getting a leadoff opposite-field double to left from Justin Beck, followed by a Nick Kitzmann single to center. With one away, Whitcomb sent an RBI single to left as Beck jogged home. After Chico State was unable to turn the inning-ending double play, instead settling for a fielder's choice groundout, a wild pitch enabled Kitzmann to score for 8-2.
The home side added a final run on a two-out RBI single in the sixth by RJ Hassey.
Mott (4-1) went 5.2 innings and allowed season highs of nine runs on 12 hits and four walks. The junior left-hander had entered the outing having surrendered just 10 earned runs over his first seven starts. He did, however, help save the bullpen in the series opener by getting into the sixth inning after it was 8-0 through three.
Blaine Jarvis registered the final out of the sixth, Ted Stuka worked a scoreless seventh with one strikeout, and true freshman right-hander Cameron Leonard struck out the 2-3-4 batters in order in a lone perfect eighth, the latter two looking.
Whitcomb was 2-for-3 with a double, walk and RBI. Beck went 1-for-3 with a double and run scored. Defensively, junior first baseman Tyler Durna expertly dug out the throw from Whitcomb on the in-between hop for the first out of the seventh.
Redshirt sophomore left-hander Grant Larson (4-2) gave up two runs on five hits and no walks over 7.0 frames. The San Diego native out of High Tech High struck out nine. Larson produced a perfect third, with two strikeouts giving him four straight of the swinging variety, preceding the snare of a hot shot off the bat of Durna. He breezed through the heart of the order in the sixth on two groundouts and a called third strike, and also retired the Tritons in order in the seventh.
UC San Diego and Chico State continue their four-game series with a doubleheader on Sunday, April 8. First pitch at Nettleton Stadium is set for 12 p.m. The nightcap will be of the shortened seven-inning variety, with about a 40-minute break in between. Live video, audio and stats are available at no charge here.
Triton Notes: Alex Eliopulos and Zander Clarke are the only two Tritons to start all 30 games ... Shay Whitcomb's double to lead off the first extended his team-best reached-base streak, as he has started his college career by getting on base in each of his first 29 contests ... Whitcomb's first-inning double was his sixth on the year ... Nick Kitzmann's first-inning caught stealing was his sixth in 13 tries, with Chico State's Cameron Santos being thrown out for just the second time in 15 attempts ... Justin Beck's fifth-inning double was his fifth ... The nine runs, nine earned runs and 12 hits given up by Preston Mott were career highs, with the four walks matching his career high ... Mott was held without a strikeout after fanning no fewer than five in his first seven starts in 2018, and at least seven in the first six of them ... Mott entered the game fourth in the CCAA with 53 strikeouts ... Chico State starter Grant Larson had also given UC San Diego problems in last year's winner-take-all CCAA Tournament final in Stockton on May 13, tossing the first five frames and allowing a single run on five hits and a walk, with six strikeouts for his first collegiate winning decision.